After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelation 7:9-10
As we prepare our hearts for receiving the Lord’s Supper, let’s hear from him about his great heart for the world. We love the world because he loves the world. We bless the world because it’s in his heart to bless the world. Whatever matters to him is what matters most to us.
God chose from the beginning to send his mighty blessing into this broken world, this entire broken world, and God’s purpose of grace will never be defeated. God does not intend to sweep every individual up into his goodness, but he does plan to gather out of every nation representatives of the entire human race. The new humanity that will romp and play forever in the New Earth will be a complete human race, no group left out, no identity lost, no culture extinct, no ethnicity marginalized. God loves the whole world and has an undefeatable purpose of grace for the whole world in Jesus.
Not only that, but from the beginning God’s strategy has been to bring his blessing into this world through us. God said to Abraham, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). And the “you” in that verse is not limited to Jewish people. The New Testament says to every one of us, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:29). For four thousand years now, God has been drawing millions of people, just like every one of us, into his purpose of grace for the nations. So the Bible authorizes me to say to you today, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Here is the difference that makes. All our small thinking, all our defeatism and self-pity and “God can’t use me” – that whole way of thinking goes out the door forever! It’s a big part of what Jesus saves us from. The gospel says that you matter in the purposes of God. You are not living in this place, at this time, by accident. Your life is filled with divine purpose, and it’s a worldwide purpose. No Christian even has the right to think of his or her life as a lonely and grim fight for survival. Is that how the gospel teaches us to think? God says he has a plan for you, including your limitations and your pain, he’s working his plan, and his plan is as big as the whole world. You are a part of his plan both to receive his grace and to spread his grace. Away with all small thoughts! You can touch the world.
Jesus died for a reason. The rest of us rarely die for a reason. We just wear out. But Jesus died to fulfill a purpose. He knows what’s worth dying for. He didn’t throw his life away in a wild roll of the dice. And what he was accomplishing by his death was to claim, by his blood, the new mankind of Revelation 7:9 from every nation, all tribes and peoples and languages. Thanks to the body and blood of Jesus, heaven will be human – fascinatingly human. We destroy our own cultures. We use the cookie cutter of government and business and entertainment to mush cultures together into one homogenous blur. Drive from one city to another in America and you see the same restaurants, the same hardware stores, the same coffee shops. But God likes local. God values our various cultures and identities. God will redeem representatives from every people group, every language group, every culture. Our humanity will live forever, for the glory of God. Most of the people in heaven will not be white or American or speak English. The eternal race of mankind, saved by Jesus, will be highly diverse forever, with no group oppressed by another but every group and every identity celebrated and honored, for the glory of God. You will spend eternity meeting new people from all around the world, from throughout the length of history. People will be then as they are now, but perfected by grace. And every person you meet will like you so much that that person will feel like your new best friend. We will be living proof that Jesus Christ really is the Prince of Peace. We will love him and one another with nuclear powered passion. We will have washed our robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, leaving no stain, no shame, no regret, nothing to hide, nothing we hope no one will notice. We wash our robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb not in the sense that we save ourselves but in the sense that we declare, “I bring my sins to the cross of Jesus. I’m going to be clear and definite about this. I have made up my mind, and I choose his way of forgiveness and reconciliation.” We will never again grovel before the thrones of human power and pseudo-salvation. We will be before his throne of grace, completely safe forever, no more looking over our shoulder to make sure we’re not being followed, no more fumbling for our keys as we approach our car door at night, no more waking up in the middle of the night wondering what that sound was out in the hallway. Our King will shelter us with his own dear presence, enveloping us with his love and delight. We will never hunger or thirst, never wonder how the money will hold out until the end of the month, never worry about retirement, never pray that the surgery will go well. We will always be safe and satisfied. We will never fear anything in our environment – no skin cancer from the blazing sun, no pesticides in the food, no oppressive humidity, but the worst day there will be better than the best day in California. Everything in the environment will bless our very bodies. Everything will feel good. And the One who will keep making all this glory to fall upon us will be our Shepherd, the Lamb who was slain to pay for every sin that would have rightly kept us out of God’s presence in heaven. I checked out the word “slain” this week, and I found out it means slaughtered, butchered. The Lamb was slaughtered and butchered, so that we could live and thrive. Forever and ever, we will adore the Slaughtered Lamb, the Butchered Lamb. This is the One who will so lovingly shepherd us and walk with us and share life with us and be our kind Companion in green pastures and beside still waters forever. We will drink from springs of living water, we will slake our thirst to the max, we will dunk our heads in and splash one another and push one another in for the sheer fun of it and play Marco Polo in the springs of living water. We will laugh and sing and play, with no tears in our eyes, for God, the best therapist in the universe, will have sat us gently down and said to each one of us, “Tell me everything. It’s okay now. You can tell me the pain you really felt, without filtering it at all. I know it was hard. I know. I was suffering with you. You don’t have to be embarrassed with me.” And we will feel so at ease with God, thanks to the finished work of Christ on the cross, that every sorrow we’ve had to live with in this life will coming pouring out of us, we will weep it all out, and he will wipe every tear from our eyes, and we will rise from that conversation free forever. We will finally be the human beings God meant us to be, for his glory, world without end. Amen.
Jesus is preparing that place for you in heaven above. And our future changes our present. For starters, we can get up and walk right out of the prison of fearful self-concern. You can be free from that grim and lonely fight for survival. Why? Because your future is as big as heaven. And until you’re there, God’s purpose for you now is as big as the world. “In you shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”
There is nothing small and inconsequential in Jesus – not even you. If you feel broken and disqualified, it’s better that way. We don’t need “victorious” Christians scolding defeated sinners. We need broken Christians in constant repentance, confessing their sins, and telling others where they can take their sins – to Jesus, the Savior of the world.
So whoever you are, you can touch the world. And you don’t need this church to tell you how. You have the command of Jesus to disciple the nations. You have the power of the Holy Spirit. You have the wisdom of God in the Bible. You have God’s great plan, with his purpose supporting you, his smile approving you, his throne of grace available to you through prayer. You can touch the world. So here is Chad Johnson, just back from Beirut. And here are Eli and Madison Martorana, leaving soon for two years helping an Acts 29 church plant in Ireland. Many of you support missionaries every month. There are so many ways for every one of us to go touch the world with the massive heart of Jesus and help more people go to heaven with us.
Here are two ways, for starters. One, adopt a nation. Jani and I feel a special responsibility for China. Our plane tickets for our next trip are already purchased. Why not adopt one nation or tribe or people group and pray for them, study them, put up a map of their land on your frig, visit them, support missionaries there, support the translation of the Bible into their language, advocate for them with politicians to make their lives better. So here’s a crazy idea. Why not recruit your neighborhood for an annual neighborhood-wide massive garage sale, with all the proceeds going to free women and children being trafficked for sex in Thailand, and do that in partnership with a Christian organization devoted to liberation, for the glory of Jesus? Most of your neighbors would love to get behind that. You can help the oppressed in Asia get free now and get to heaven forever. And when you’re there, you’ll meet them, and they’ll throw their arms around you and thank you, and everyone will bow down before the Lamb and thank him. Doesn’t that approach to life sound more satisfying than your own lonely fight for survival?
Two, when John Piper was with us last year, I asked him, How can we as a church get involved in the worldwide heart of Jesus? And he said, Bring the Perspectives course to Immanuel. So in three weeks, starting on Tuesday night August 25th, this college-level course – you have the brochure about it – will ignite in your heart an informed, biblical passion for the glory of Jesus among the nations. The follow-up information is on the back of the brochure. We are telling you about it now, so that as many of us as possible can take this course, for fifteen Tuesday nights, this fall, starting in three weeks. The Perspectives course has the potential to mark us permanently with a passion for his glory among the nations.
Tuesday nights this fall will be a busy and exciting destination here at Immanuel. In addition to the Perspectives course, we will have Immanuel Theology for Men in the book of Isaiah, and Immanuel Theology for Women in the book of Romans. I wonder what God will accomplish among us by the end of 2015 in these significant ways? I do know that Isaiah and Romans and the Perspectives course – it looks like the stirrings of revival.
As we come to communion, this bread and this cup speak to us of a love too great to be limited to what we deserve, a love too great to stop at any national boundary, a love too great to be restricted to one group or class or race, because the One inviting us here is the New Adam of a New Humanity. And there is a place in his mighty heart for you today.